Everything you have to know about the first rione of Rome
Are you looking for the coolest area in Rome? Rione Monti is the right choice!
Whatever you are passionate about, in Monti you will find something interesting fitting your needs and curiosities. It is a wide district, characterized by a mixed urban composition: while touring you can appreciate both the 19th-century urbanization – via Cavour, via Nazionale, via Merulana – and the archaeological site. Here you will have the feeling of going back in time, de facto lots of traditional artisan’s workshops, art galleries, brand new bars coexist with traditional taverns and contribute to the authentic essence of this district.
Characterized by a romantic style, Monti is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods, thanks to its vicinity to the Coliseum area too. Both tourists and locals use to frequent Monti, though its nightlife is less tourist than in Trastevere district.
History of Rione Monti
It is Rome’s first district and the name “Monti” literally means “hills”, symbolizing the three hills once included in its territory: Esquiline, Viminal and Caelian Hill. During the Roman era the area was densely populated: the upper part was characterized by noble residences, while the lower part called “suburban” –literally the area under the city – was inhabited by poor people, full of disreputable locals and brothels.
In the Middle Ages the area was not much populated because of the lack of water, though the presence of the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano ensured that the area did not remain abandoned.
The great changes in the Fascist period completely changed the appearance of the rione. In particular, between 1924 and 1936 a large part was destroyed to create Via dei Fori Imperiali.
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Most fascinating alleys
The first thing to do when in Monti is getting lost through its typical and charming alleys. Below a list of the best ones where, even locals feel tourists.
- Via Panisperna
There’s nothing more picturesque and characteristic than via Panisperna! It crosses the whole neighborhood and gets to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, a Papal major basilica and the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome. The street is adorned with ivy and creeping plants falling down like a cascade from buildings and electric cables.
History goes that the street takes its name after the monks of San Lorenzo in Panisperna. They used to distribute bread and ham (panis et pernapanis et perna in Latin) to poor people on the day of their Saint’s festival. But it is possible that is derived from the surname of two important families whose properties were located right near the church.
If you are looking for a typical tavern you should go to “La Carbonara” – street number 214 –!
- Piazza Madonna dei Monti
It is precisely the core of the rione. In the middle of the square there is the famous fountain of the same name dating back to 1959. Thanks to the presence of restaurants, bars and pubs most people use to gather at “Madonna dei Monti square”, making Monti one of the most vivid district.
- Via Leonina
This is the best street where to buy up vintage clothes. It is exactly in this street that you will find lots of small vintage shops selling old but stylish stuff. Furthermore, on Saturdays and Sundays you can have a stroll through the many kiosks selling vintage things at Mercato Urbano di Monti. Don’t miss this famous flea market!
- Salita dei Borgia
Actually the most fascinating street in Monti, it is a steep stairway that starting from via Cavour gets until the church of San Pietro in Vincoli – a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica in Rome famous for being home to Michelangelo’s statue of Moses –. The street is characterized by a covering of green ivy. Even if it could seem a little bit tiring, you should climb up the street because Moses is really worthy of it!
- Via dei Fori Imperiali
A famous street located right in the center of Rome, it links Piazza Venezia with the Coliseum. While walking through it, you will have the chance to see parts of the Forum of Trojan, Forum of Augustus and Forum of Nerva on both sides of the road. It was built by order of the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini changing completely the appearance and character of the heart of Rome. De facto divided the Fora area in two, hiding over 84% of the excavated forums.
How to get to Monti District
For those who want to see an unusual part of the Eternal City, you should visit San Clemente’s basilica. Built on three different levels, it is really a unique church! This means that from the top to the bottom, in just one site, you can admire ruins of different centuries: a 1st century Roman House, a 2nd century Mithraeum (where there was the worshipper of Mithra) and a 4th century Early Roman Basilica.
Rione Monti is the district you shouldn’t miss when in Rome. The only way to experience its atmosphere is to have a walk through its alleys, whether you are a tourist or an authentic Roman!